- The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners voted to approve a $65 million contract with AtkinsRealis, an infrastructure consultant that will advise the Florida county on its plans for a new mass burn waste-to-energy facility.
- The contractor is expected to bring design plans to 30% completion if and when the county selects a site for the new facility, County Chief Operating Officer Jimmy Morales said at a county board hearing Tuesday. The county would then issue a request for proposals for a design, build and operate contract to finish the WTE facility.
- The county left some waste-related issues on the table following the hearing. Questions regarding rail transport of waste, zero waste policies and recycling contracts remain. County Board Chair Oliver Gilbert III said he would likely call a special meeting to address waste issues in January.
The contract is the next step in a process that's moved quickly since the county's former refuse-derived fuel facility was destroyed in a fire in February.
That fire brought an end to a Covanta-run facility in Doral that had been the target of environmental justice advocates. They have been dismayed at the county's decision to move ahead with a new WTE plant.
At a September hearing, commissioners debated a report from County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava that proposed a site at a former airport in the northwest corner of the county as the best option for a new facility. Ultimately, the county voted to advance three candidate sites for evaluation by state and federal regulators, including the site of the now-shuttered Doral incinerator.
Advocates have urged the mayor's administration to develop and submit a zero waste plan to the board that would supplant the need for an incinerator with circular economy policies. But the mayor has yet to release such a report.
The county's process to build a new WTE plant is following a tight deadline as commissioners balance insurance payouts from the February fire and expiring COVID-era federal funding.
In a memo to the board sent Friday, Cava's office said that the county had received a $50 million advanced payment from insurance adjuster Sedgwick as a result of the fire. Deliberations remain ongoing as to future payouts, as Sedgwick has not yet responded to the county's request for additional time to allocate insurance funds toward a replacement facility, per the memo.
The board also passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for additional funding from state and federal partners. The resolution will be sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and various state leaders. It expresses support for a request already submitted by state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez seeking just over $2.8 million from the legislature to fund the new WTE facility, which the county would match. The funds would go toward modeling, testing and consultant preliminary design as well as an air quality impact analysis, the latter of which commissioners have said they need in order to determine the best site for the facility.
The board doesn’t expect construction to begin on the new WTE plant until 2027 and projects it will be complete in 2033, according to the resolution. As a result, the county must find alternatives for the next decade to address the one million tons of annual capacity lost as a result of the old incinerator shutting down.
Cava had previously floated rail transfer of waste as a possible solution. In a memo to the board in August, Cava's office noted that CSX had said in early negotiations that it could provide up to 400,000 tons of annual waste disposal capacity by shipping waste by rail out of the state. The mayor's memo said the rail operator could bring such capacity online in 12 to 18 months.
On Tuesday, Morales said that WM has begun a pilot to ship waste via rail from its Medley Landfill in Miami-Dade County. He said negotiations also continue with CSX to use its private freight rail lines to do the same.
Commissioners also took a step forward on recycling on Tuesday, an issue beset by delays earlier in the year. The board voted unanimously to approve a nearly $10.2 million contract for WM to provide recycling services to 469 county facilities for the next five years.